A Trump-Stewart Republican Party?

Map credit: Virginia Public Access Project

What do we make of Corey Stewart’s nomination as Republican candidate to run against Tim Kaine for the U.S. Senate seat? Does Stewart’s narrow victory portend a reshaping of the Republican Party of Virginia along more populist, Trumpian lines?

I think a fundamental political realignment could be occurring, but the outcome hinges on events yet to unfold. A lot will depend on what happens to President Trump. If his administration collapses in scandal, as it very well could, so does the populist movement within the Virginia GOP. If, on the other hand, Trump is vindicated in the “Russia collusion” concoction, if the machinations of the Deep State are revealed for all to see (see the release today of the OIG report), and if the economy continues to boom, many people will forgive his character flaws and rhetorical abominations, and Trumpism could very well take lasting root in the party of Lincoln, McKinley and Reagan.

The prospect of a realignment also depends upon how successful Stewart will be in what he promises to be a “vicious campaign” against Kaine, who, whatever one thinks of his politics and his off-putting performance during 2016’s vice presidential debate, is widely regarded as a likable person and the antithesis of vicious. It was one thing for Trump to run a nasty campaign against Hillary Clinton, who had more baggage than Kim Kardashian on a trip to Cannes, and quite another to run one against Mr. Clean. I further question whether Virginia voters, after two years of watching the politics of personal destruction in Washington, D.C., have an appetite for more of the same closer to home, so I am skeptical that Stewart’s pledged scorched-earth campaign will resonate. Indeed, I expect that it will fail spectacularly, in which case Stewart will be repudiated and the GOP could become safe once again for moderates and libertarians.

But my opinion may not count for much. I’m an educated suburbanite, and Stewart isn’t appealing to people like me. He’s hoping to mobilize the forgotten men and women of the white working class and middle class — those who feel alienated from elitist culture and the structures of power.

There may have been enough such voters to capture a GOP nomination, but are there enough to win a statewide U.S. Senate campaign? Stewart won only 45% of the Republican vote in a relatively low turnout primary. If he can unite the party, he has a remote chance of winning the election. If he can’t, he has zero chance. He drew disproportionate strength from the predominantly white localities west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, moderate support in Northern Virginia and the southern Piedmont industrial quadrangle (Roanoke, Lynchburg, Danville, Martinsville), but little anywhere else.

Here’s his problem. While nearly all Republicans and many independents recoil from the Democratic Party’s identity politics, they are divided about how to respond. Stewart answers the rhetoric of minority grievance and resentment with the rhetoric of white grievance and resentment. In a demographically diverse state like Virginia, that’s a losing proposition. Nick Freitas and E.W. Jackson, Stewart’s primary opponents, staked out more inclusive positions of opportunity for all. That’s a fundamental philosophical dividing line.

In the current political environment, I see three big buckets of voters — (1) those who hew to the Democratic tribe emphasizing grievances based on color, gender and sexual orientation, (2) those who hew to the Trump-Republican tribe emphasizing white working/middle-class grievances, and (3) those who eschew tribal identities altogether and see people as individuals with cross-cutting identities and priorities. The third group, I would suggest, overlaps significantly with a voting bloc I have referred to in the past as “natural libertarians” with a tolerant live-and-let-live philosophy — and that includes many Republicans who didn’t vote for Stewart.

The logical home of the natural libertarians, I would suggest, is within the Libertarian Party — if only the LP could broaden its appeal beyond its core base of intellectual purists by finding a large demographic constituency. In case you missed it, the LP has fielded a U.S. Senate candidate, Matt Waters. With a platform that includes ending the federal income tax, however, it’s hard to imagine voters taking him seriously.

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16 responses to “A Trump-Stewart Republican Party?

  1. “Does Stewart’s narrow victory portend a reshaping of the Republican Party of Virginia along more populist, Trumpian lines?” Uh, I’m sorry – did you fall asleep two years ago and just wake up? Lemme fill you in…..

    So during the Earle Williams/George Allen effort 25 years ago my camp did a little polling. As a delegate Allen had been the only member (or one of two) of the House to vote against an effort by Delegate Clint Miller to take the word “darkie” out of the state song. Miller was/is a great musician and it was a very clean edit he proposed. Just changed one word. It seemed to me to be a vote by Allen that he might have a hard time explaining in a general election.

    The universe of likely and potential GOP convention delegates we polled thought George’s vote was just wonderful. This was 1993. We sure never brought it up and I fully expected that Mary Sue Terry would be all over it – but perhaps even in a general election polling universe in 1993 most Virginia voters had no problem with that word in the official state song, and secretly liked it. Her pollster probably said don’t go there. (This is assuming she even knew of that roll call in that age when looking them up meant a trip to the library.)

    There has always been political power in racial appeals, a strong undercurrent of white resentment which Trump tapped in his very opening moments in 2015 with his attacks on Mexicans. Many political pros have seen the pulsing power but have suspected it was actually a dangerous third rail. Trump grabbed it with both hands and now Stewart has copied him. In Trump’s case it was not fatal and I doubt this particular genie goes back into the bottle.

    So yes, there has been a realignment but its a damn ugly one. Perhaps given the powerful demographic trends favoring the Democrats it is viewed as the only path to victory. It ain’t the Big Tent but it worked. It will certainly be tested again all over the country this year but I don’t think it will work in Virginia because so many Republicans have no stomach for it. I see no way to heal the breach in the near future.

  2. Dear Steve,

    The item that really stood out in your response to Jim was the Trumpian realignment as “damn ugly.” But this is not occurring in a vacuum. Non-Mandarin Whites such as myself actually perceive the vicious racial hatred of Liberals and Democratic rulers and do NOT want the Republican Party to merely smile weakly and “look the other way.” This trend was begun by the Left, after Martin Luther King’s time, and especially since the 1980s. More and more Whites realize that there is no appeasing of such people. The Republican Establishment thinks that they can bribe and buy their way out of any unpleasant realities. Well, maybe THEY can, at least for now; but for the rest of us, it is “in your face” everyday. It is weak Republicans such as yourself who been the enablers of this. People like you gave birth to the Trump movement by failing to protect White interests or even basic standards of civilization. Instead we are stuck in a disintegrating dystopia of mutual hatred that could, and should, have been prevented.



  3. Do you believe that all of the votes for Stewart were cast by Republicans? Our open primaries provide a great opportunity for the other party to “help” choose candidates.

    • Interesting theory. I have no idea. However, it would have been unlikely in the 7th congressional district where Democrats had a lively nomination contest. Voters are not allowed to vote in primaries of both parties, even for different offices.

      • There is always some crossover. I saw one young woman in a Spanberger shirt vote in her Richmond City precinct, but it is an open primary. It was the 4th district so no D ballot.

  4. But in Districts where there was no contest on the Democrat side? This seemed to have occurred in the 2007 state senate primary when Joe Blackburn challenged Walter Stosch.

  5. Until now, I have not voted from a grievance perspective. However, the things I’ve experienced over the last four years as the land that is my heritage has been effectively taken over by a company that prefers to treat me as the enemy and has no concern at all about our goals for our property, and leadership that just helps them do it, it will be different going forward. I seek leadership that will help ensure that landowners at least have a chance to get their needs and goals for their property balanced with those of the invading business. I also seek leadership that will foster an environment of helping everyone to succeed, not creating winners and losers. The existing political parties have let people like me down in a big way and this discussion totally misses the economic reality my family business faces. Both parties almost completely turned their backs on what is happening to us. We must bring about positive change that respects basic landowner rights and finds ways to get things done without someone destroying someone else’s business and life.

  6. Anyone who thinks Trumpsters will flee Trump for conventional misbehavior is living in LA LA LAnd. Trump could, as previously claimed, probably commit any and all crimes that would sink most pols and emerge stronger than ever with his base. Thems the facts. Read em and weep.

  7. Kaine is not clean. By a long shot. I’ve seen the crap that has come out of him and his office.

  8. I’m dismayed by your resort to the, oft-experienced, equivalence argument — on one side Democrat’s concern for racial, gender, sexual prejudice and on the other the obvious Trumpian anti-immigrant, border-line white-supremacy appeal. Hardly equivalent in moral or normal political terms.

    Just to clarify (to avoid misunderstanding), I’m from a long, yes white, line of 17th century farming ancestors, and Republican from the outset until Goldwater. But whatever one’s background, to dismiss what ought to be a predominant concern about racism, gender and sexual prejudice as socially and economically crippling misses the facts. Nor does it, or should it, mean that such concern precludes efforts to provide universal health care and to diminish our now increasing economic polarization. These too are Democratic concerns. Sad indeed that the party of one’s ancestors has run amok.

  9. “What does it all mean?” Corey Stewart will, I trust, turn out to be such an embarrassment to the Republican Party that in the short run his Statewide campaign on behalf of the GOP helps Democrats across the board, not merely Kaine.

    But in the long run the polarization of the electorate is not going to be reversed by rejecting Corey Stewart, even decisively. Your three buckets of voters, Jim, seem to me about right, and I’m no committed fan of a Democratic majority in the GA. except to purge it of some particularly entrenched and misguided support for irrational leadership and policies on the right. That puts me solidly in Bucket 3.

    But – to continue your simile – there is a presumption of rationality and fact-based policy-making in both Buckets 2 and 3 that has abandoned (or been kicked out of) Bucket 1. If the only way forward for rational, fact-based moderates, let alone conservatives, to get things done is to align with the Democratic Party, then we will have some interesting coalitions ahead of us.

    As you say, “Stewart answers the rhetoric of minority grievance and resentment with the rhetoric of white grievance and resentment. In a demographically diverse state like Virginia, that’s a losing proposition.” Nonetheless, your map of Stewart support is fascinating.

    Deeper fundamentals are suggested by the map but harder to discern. I continue to urge people to read this article in June’s Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/the-birth-of-a-new-american-aristocracy/559130/
    No one here is going to agree with every word in it, but it is a provocative piece that tries to step back behind the anger and look for root causes. Even a Libertarian might agree.

  10. First of all, I guess I’m one of the few voters who voted in the primary and I voted for Nick Freitas. My guy lost. However I have no intention of immediately developing Stewart Derangement Syndrome any more than I allow myself to have Trump Derangement Syndrome. I want to see the facts, I want to hear his plans and policies.

    Let’s start with Trump. Racist? I don’t see it. He wants to enforce our immigration laws and build a wall to help do that. So what? Presidents are supposed to enforce the laws passed by Congress. During one of her rare moments of sanity perhaps Nancy Pelosi could sponsor a bill that completely opens the borders to anybody and everybody. All immigration is legal. No enforcement of illegal immigration. No wall. The lunatic left won’t do that. It would cost them too many votes. So they pass immigration legislation but then want the President to fail to enforce that legislation. Trump isn’t buying that.

    Trump says Canadiens apply a 274% tariff to US dairy products. I haven’t heard anybody from the left claim that’s not true. Is it possible that elitist hucksters like Barack Obama and George W Bush signed trade deals that were bad for America just so they could show some fake progress in foreign affairs and “free trade”? Oh yeah, that’s possible. Trump isn’t buying that.

    Mueller is investigating Trump ostensibly for firing Comey. But Comey discredited himself with his bizarre book and then was found essentially incompetent by the DoJ Inspector General. Shouldn’t the Mueller investigation just end?

    There is some claim that Russia interfered in the US election of 2016 using everything from hacked e-mail to Twitter bots. To date, very little evidence seems to point at Trump as being complicit. Meanwhile, Felonia von Pantsuit conspired to have the leader of Libya murdered leaving a gaping hole in the Middle East. No Twitter bots for Felonia. Just the corpses of foreign leaders. Here’s a video of her cackling about how the US killed Gaddaffi. She also manages to accuse Iran of being the biggest supporter of terrorism in the world at the end of the video. How odd of Trump to cancel Obama’s ridiculous nuclear deal with Iran! https://youtu.be/mlz3-OzcExI This was the Democrats’ alternative to Trump.

    Finally, Jim joins the BearingDrift crew in continuing to fail to understand what’s really happening in America. He echoes the verbal spew of the left trying to chalk these populist changes up to simmering racism from disgruntled white men. The implication is clear – this is racism. Of course it’s not. It’s anti-elitism. Here’s a sentence from Jim’s latest blog post, “The one-man-blog model allowed me to make a comfortable living doing what I loved to do, but it was impossible to grow.” How do you think some poor guy living in a double wide driving a truck for the last 35 years barely making ends meet feels about your comfortable living as a one man blog operator? As Dire Straights sang, “Money for nothing and the chicks are free.” The perception is that money comes effortlessly to the elite in America. And it barely comes at all to hard working blue collar Americans. The men risking their lives and health going down into the coal mines when the fat cat owners actually decide to mine coal don’t hate black people, they hate you. They hate me. They hate the fact that the elite in America seem able to conjure up money out of thin air and buy whatever they want whenever they want it. They hate seeing banksters commit wide scale fraud, never get prosecuted and then seeing Obama make a beeline immediately after he leaves the White House to give a $250,000 speech sponsored by banks. Their houses are still under water. Why was there no justice for the bankers who robo-signed deals, etc?

    Trump had the perfect foil in Hillary Clinton. Her husband seemed above the law. His attitude was recently summed up with – Bill Clinton: Norms Have Changed on “What You Can Do to Somebody Against Their Will” There were endless accusations of self-dealing while she was Secretary of State. The more powerful she became the more obscene the price paid by special interests for her husband’s speeches. Accusations surfaced that her charitable foundation paid for her daughter’s wedding.

    Trump said, “You’ve been sold out by the elite” and a lot of people believed him. Given what I’ve seen of the Paris Climate Accord, the Iranian Nuclear Deal and the Canadien tariffs on US dairy products … he may have a point.

    As for Stewart – I don’t want to hear the rumors, I don’t want to listen to more left wing slander. What has he done and what does he propose to do? Tim Kaine ran as Felionia Von Pantsuit’s sidekick in 2016 and that’e enough to get me to look at any alternative to “Caribbean Vacation” Timmy. I’ve gone to Stewart’s web site and read his issues page. I differ with him on a number of issues but where is the racism? The misogyny? I’m not seeing it.

    • “[Jim] echoes the verbal spew of the left trying to chalk these populist changes up to simmering racism from disgruntled white men. The implication is clear – this is racism. “

      Don, I can’t imagine how you drew that conclusion when I wrote this: “Stewart] is hoping to mobilize the forgotten men and women of the white working class and middle class — those who feel alienated from elitist culture and the structures of power.”

      I’ve dedicated innumerable blog posts to countering the views of progressives who ascribe racism to the motives of everyone they disagree with.

      • You also wrote, “Stewart answers the rhetoric of minority grievance and resentment with the rhetoric of white grievance and resentment.”

        I don’t see anti – “minority grievance and resentment” in the Stewart base. I see anti – elite grievance and resentment.

        interestingly, the good old Drudge Report dug up a Washington Post article from 2015 documenting how the Obama Administration separated the children of immigrants illegally entering the United States from their parents. Was Obama just being a racist? Where was the hue and cry of the left when that was happening?

        Obama was, and is, an elitist. Trump has successfully convinced people that he is an anti-elitist. His actions somewhat support that contention. The far left and the far right love them some elitists. I saw an interesting interview of white separatist Richard Spencer by a Muslim reporter. He couldn’t stop talking about how he was elite and supposed to be running the country.

  11. Here’s an article about Corey Stewart supporting the building of a mosque in Loudoun County despite some bitter opposition …


    These things are never as straight forward as the mainstream media would like us believe.

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